Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Field Narrows

From the initial field of a few hundred thousand rumoured candidates, it’s looking more and more like this will be a three-man race (c’mon Paul Hellyer – it’s not too late to get a team together!). The latest MPs to offer up the “thanks, but no thanks” are Martha Hall Findlay, Denis Coderre, David McGuinty, and Gerard Kennedy. Given the amount of virtual ink I spilled pushing Kennedy’s candidacy in 2006, I feel I should offer up a comment or two on his decision.

Although it’s not what first drew me to him, I think Gerard is one of the people in the Liberal Party who really “gets it”. He made “immigrant success” a key plank of his last leadership campaign, long before people realized that Jason Kenney was systematically winning over support from this traditional Liberal demographic. He was the only Liberal candidate last time who talked about party renewal and offered ideas to re-engage the base. Having been involved with Liberal politics in Alberta, he’s also one of the few MPs in the party who understands we can’t keep writing off the West…having talked with him about this a few times, I think he gets this better than a lot of western Liberals.

And while I know some will disagree with me, I think Gerard was bang on with his handling of the Afghanistan and Quebec nation grenades that were launched into the campaign last time.

I know he has his detractors inside the party and is far from a perfect politician but, despite that, he was one of only four to win new Liberal seats last election, and he didn’t even need a Danny Williams assist to do it.

Now, with all that said, I think Gerard was smart to take a pass (“know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em” yada yada yada). He’s a good candidate now and I would have supported him again if he ran, but he’ll be a better candidate in the future with some federal experience and a few more French lessons under his belt. I also think he can do a lot of good on the party renewal front from outside the race and I hope he directs his energy in that direction.

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  • This decision showed excellent judgment on Kennedy's part. After 4-8 years of federal experience and opportunities to build a national profile, he'll be well-positioned in the race after this one.

    As well, if he'd run again and lost, he would be the Tony Clement of the Liberal Party and have zero credibility going forward.

    A wise decision, all in all.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:15 p.m.  

  • After a few years of Michael Ignatieff as leader, I think Liberals will realize that Kennedy picking Dion last time wasn't a sign of poor judgement.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:21 p.m.  

  • I also supported Kennedy last time, and still think he would be a great person for the job. As you put it, CG, 'he gets it' on party renewal, grassroots organizing, difficult policy positions, on bring in youth members and western voters. I also see him as being the most charismatic and articulate person in the field of potential candidates.
    I agree with you also, in that I am glad, for his own sake he is not running. Family, representing his riding as a new MP and concentrating on building a reputation at the federal level will serve him well in a future run. There is the issue of previous campaign debt as well.
    Overall, good post, CG.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:43 p.m.  

  • "The Count's" comment is so dead on I just about choked laughing

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:50 p.m.  

  • That first anon comment is a joke. Last leadership most delegates at the Convention all said Kennedy would be next. Then after Dion won, every Dion delegate said Kennedy's turn would be next. Now these Rae and Ignatieff opportunists (and I'm not suggesting all of their supporters, but a few) are saying "Kennedy will be next after our guy." Like do these people think we don't remember what they said in 2006? Because I do and I remember which delegates said it.


    By Blogger, at 7:56 p.m.  

  • its gonna suck if orchard jumps in and because of a lack of enthusiasm for iggy or rae, he gets a nice chunk of delegates.

    i'm encouraged by some of the ideas from leblanc. i wan to hear more from him.

    sorry, but if the grits choose iggy or rae as leader its as good as admitting defeat and putting off real reform in the party until another embarrasing electoral defeat happens.

    personally i was hoping the shock and size of the defeat in the last election would cause a number of new and interesting candidates to jump in. from where i'm sitting, leblanc is the only one that come close to having the ability to excite the base. iggy is too controversial and divisive. rae, will never be able to get over "rae days" and re-capture the hearts and minds of ontarians which this party desperately needs in order to recapture a minority (note that i'm not even suggesting he has a possibility to capture a majority government).

    need more candidates to jump in.

    damn you kennedy, i'm now very pessimistic about this race and the future of the grits.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:21 p.m.  

  • My concern is that the Liberal Party is again going with the quick fix. Quick fixes don't work. Iggy is a quick fix. He was the wrong choice last time and would be the wrong choice this time. His position on Quebec is as un-Liberal as it gets.

    He's way to the right of Barack Obama and is ideologically closer to Harper.

    If people thought Dion was a mistake...

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:24 p.m.  

  • Can someone explain to me the legal standing of any fundraising (or expenses being incurred) by any potential Liberal leadership candidate at this time?

    Kennedy made some comment today about people offering him money to run, or perhaps ostensibly to pay off the debt remaining from his previous campaign.

    But I thought that Election finance laws were fairly strict about collecting or disbursing money for a Party Leadership campaign. Then again, I mistakenly believed that the laws required campaign debts to be repaid within a much shorter time after completion of the contest.

    Does anyone have a more definitive answer?

    By Blogger Paul, at 8:27 p.m.  

  • You mean Danny Williams' billboard on the Gardiner Expwy. wasn't the deciding factor in Parkdale?

    By Blogger Mark, at 9:05 p.m.  

  • Why is the Liberal Party wasting money on a convention? Just have Iggy and Rae go on Rick Mercer's show and arm wrestle for it.

    Who is going to care about a race between the old white male socialist and the old white male neoconservative?

    Exactly what are they drinking and smoking in the salons of Rosedale and Forest Hill these days?

    By Blogger whyshouldIsellyourwheat, at 10:01 p.m.  

  • I agree, Kennedy is a breath of fresh air and correctly understands that only a federalist Liberal option in Quebec will beat the nationalist BQ. The nation motion solved nothing. (Sorry Chantel Hebert) I wonder what Roy Romanow is doing these days? Perhaps someone could convince Danny Williams to throw his hat in the ring!!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:27 p.m.  

  • Kennedy also tapped into innovation and the knowledge economy as key economic issues in his run. It's easy to dismiss those as boilerplate, but it's really the only path to ensuring we a.) sustain a high standard of living and b.) don't have to bail out auto manufacturers every couple years. Moreover, he's the only candidate I can recall talking about innovation with any measure of seriousness. Combined with, as you note, his Quebec and Afghanistan positions, he gave you the sense that he was going to be a thoughtful, policy-oriented leader who wasn't going to pander. He's a valuable voice in the party and would have been a very good leader.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:37 p.m.  

  • He was a good candidate; hope he tries again sometime.

    By Blogger Ashley_Wilkes-Booth, at 1:25 a.m.  

  • Disappointing but completely understandable. Can't blame him from wanting to focus on family and finances -- and on the brightside, we certainly can tap his energy and ideas behind the spotlight to get the rebuilding underway. Maybe get a western canada tour going some point in the spring, or i suppose he'll have to wait until this leadership race doohicky is done. Otherwise, i'm not moaning like Scott-r, but disappointed all the same.

    By Blogger burlivespipe, at 3:22 a.m.  

  • The two old white guys cancel each other out, leaving LeBlanc as the obvious Liberal choice.

    Iggy's not it besides too many Martinites in his court, he's arrogant and doesn't relate to the guy on the street. Actually an English Dion.

    Rae - no way, no how in Ontario!!!!


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:57 a.m.  

  • So when do we get the Calgary Grit support striptease a la Kinsella?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:26 a.m.  

  • the Libs need a city mayor to anoint, like Calgary's Bronconnier.

    take him, puhleeze!

    (or hazel macallion?) for the fem-vote

    By Blogger Unknown, at 9:44 a.m.  

  • I don't know which is hotter
    Dominic LeBlanc or calgarygrit

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:00 a.m.  

  • I am very sad he is not running.

    Any word on Ruby Dhalla?

    By Blogger mezba, at 11:07 a.m.  

  • His position on Quebec is as un-Liberal as it gets.

    He's way to the right of Barack Obama and is ideologically closer to Harper.

    I don't understand either of these two comments, I have to say.

    Chretien introduced and passed a motion recognizing Quebec's distict society. Dion supported Meech Lake because of distinct society and as leader support a motion in Parliament to recognize the Quebecois as a nation. All leaders from the last round except Dryden and Kennedy supported recognizing Quebec as a nation. So, while I disagree with the motion very strongly, I don't see how you can argue it is "un-Liberal" given the history of the party over the last 15 years.

    And on the straw man argument about who's more left or right, Obama opposes equal marriage and opposes universal national healthcare so I don't know if it is helpful to make cross-border ideological comparisons to him.

    Instead, let's try something unique this time around. Let's read and listen and ask about what each candidate proposes to do, what policies will guide them, what legislation they propose to introduce. Frankly, I think we are just as much a barrier to any true renewal as the leaders and the backroom when we so clearly focus our own attention away from policies and substantive issues.

    With fewer candidates running we have an opportunity to really focus on issues rather than style and history and one-liners. I hope those dissillusioned by Kennedy dropping out will drop in to someone's campaign. The more participation the better, the more focus on probing questions the better.

    By Blogger Ted Betts, at 12:34 p.m.  

  • Ruby Dhalla will not be running

    It isn't out yet, but if any organizers out there have been approached by the Dhalla camp please make yourselves known (even anonymously)...

    *crickets chirping*

    That's what I thought...

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:34 p.m.  

  • Lots of Iggy-hate here. Too bad it's so short-sighted.

    Actually, Iggy is the best choice for Liberal Party revival. He is smart enough to resurrect the Trudeau model. No, he's not Trudeau or the reincarnation of Trudeau, but he is smart enough to do what Trudeau did: separate the party/election efforts (lead by a Davey-like figure - hey, maybe Warren will get a senate seat after the next election!!) from the ideas efforts.

    And the ideas efforts will be lead by totally new people -- anyone involved in the party over the last ten years will be politely ignored within the PMO. Iggy has the connections to get to real brains, the next generation of thinkers, who have the ideas and the talents to lead this country.

    You're not going to like it, but Canadians will.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:24 p.m.  

  • Kennedy was having an interesting meeting with a very cute staffer at a King St. Starbucks last night around 6. She's very obviously engaged, no suggestion of hanky panky, but was kind of interesting for them to be having a strategy session last night in such a public place.

    The Rae-Iggy cage match will be fun to watch. Warren's justifications for supporting the Igster are hilarious, but then Warren is pretty hilarious himself these days.

    By Blogger Hey, at 3:36 p.m.  

  • ... except that Davey's efforts to energize the base largely failed. It's all in Clarkson's "Big Red Machine". Iggy won't define the party other than in his own image--just like Trudeau. Trudeau didn't understand the party, but made the party a manifestation of his persona. That kind of thinking doesn't found a party with an articulated basis of existence.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:36 p.m.  

  • Davey did not want to 'energize the base' -- sounds like an empty Clarkson phrase - did you take his lame Can-Am relations course? Davey (& Coutts) just won elections, which is all they wanted to do.

    "Trudeau didn't understand the party, but made the party a manifestation of his persona. That kind of thinking doesn't found a party with an articulated basis of existence." Who cares? Winning for 16 years isn't enough?

    And it can't be done today? Just substitute 'Obama' for 'Trudeau', and never forget Lizzy May's assessment of the populace (it's the Liberals best hope). [Yeah, I know she never really said it, but it's just so close to the truth anyway, isn't it?]

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:11 p.m.  

  • Kinsella’s a riot today. “I disagree with everything Ignatieff stands for but he was nice to me so I’m supporting him.”

    That aside, Ignatieff is probably the best of a bad field. But Harper doesn’t need to be worried about any of them.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:19 p.m.  

  • Now com'on, Sean. Kinsella hasn't changed his reasoning, just the object of his affections.

    (can't you hear the weeping of rejection from 24 Sussex?)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:47 p.m.  

  • "Actually, Iggy is the best choice for Liberal Party revival. He is smart enough to resurrect the Trudeau model."

    In what ways is Iggy Trudeau personified?

    -Trudeau was a quasi-isolationist pursuer of a "third option" for Canada (who once responded to outcry about a humanitarian crisis by saying "where's Biafra?").

    Ignatieff is one of the leading disciples of he-manitarianism. Whether or not he has recanted his support for the Iraq war, his views strongly support military intervention abroad, generally driven by ideals rather than national interest concerns.

    -Trudeau fought vehemently for a Canada as one nation, united under a common constitution. He viewed nationalism (especially Quebec nationalism) as irrational and counter-productive. Even if he sometimes appeased Quebec fiscally, he never did in terms of granting authority or legitimacy to the notion of the Quebec nation.

    Ignatieff is the one that revived distinct society mark II as a debating issue in order to appeal to soft nationalists. Where Trudeau passionately tried to sell Quebec on Canada, Ignatieff is of the Clark/Mulroney/Martin/Harper model of a Canada of Canadas.

    They may be similar on economic matters, but on federalism and international affairs, they could hardly be further apart.

    Is their coalition the same? Hardly. How did Trudeau win elections? He used wedge issues (like the NEP) to force the Tories to either piss off their base or lose Ontario. He used the massive unpopularity of the Tories in Quebec to win almost every seat there. The Trudeau model, however, was at its heart a core-periphery one, with the liberals dominating Canada's industrial and population heartland.

    I can't really talk much about what an Iggy coalition would look like - though his stance on Quebec-as-a-nation doesn't suggest he is a hardline federalist, and his foreign policy stances might actually sell well in the Maritimes and the west. He was certainly seen last time as the centrist candidate. Moreover, if you look at where he won in the last leadership convention, it didn't look like a Trudeau coalition:

    Ignatieff was a strong second in Alberta, a solid winner in Saskatchewan, a distance second in Manitoba, narrow first in Ontario, clear winner in Quebec, clear winner in New Brunswick, close second in Nova Scotia, and close second in Newfoundland. He won across the country and is not offensive to any particular region of the country like Trudeau was.

    By Blogger french wedding cat, at 6:16 p.m.  

  • He's way to the right of Barack Obama and is ideologically closer to Harper.

    Gay marriage
    Obama: no
    Harper: no
    Ignatieff: yes

    Universal healthcare
    Obama: no
    Harper: yes
    Igntatieff: yes

    War in Iraq
    Obama: no
    Harper: yes
    Ignatieff: yes (on humanitarian grounds)

    Hmm... Obama looks like the right-winger.

    By Blogger french wedding cat, at 6:20 p.m.  

  • H2H

    My point was not to compare Trudeau to Iggy on policy or temperament, but on approach to the party and governing. I do not disagree with anything you wrote, but meant that I fealt Trudeau was at his best when he had Davey/ Coutts running the party/ elections, and Pitfield/ Tom Axworthy doing policy and governing.

    I simply think Iggy will take a similar approach -- and you will start to see the thinkers emerge after he is leader, at his thinkers conference.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:27 a.m.  

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